Going meatless, even just once to a few times a week, can make an amazing impact on your health. You don’t have to cut all animal products out of your life cold-turkey, but decreasing the amount of meat and increasing the amount of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole-grains that you eat can do wonders for your health and the health of the environment.
Here are 7 reasons to go vegetarian one day a week, plus a days worth of meal ideas to get you started! We promise you, you won’t even miss the meat.
It’s great for your heart health
Animal products are high in saturated fat, in contrast to plant-based foods that are either low in fat or contain heart-healthy unsaturated fat. A higher consumption of animal products is correlated to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, as diets high in saturated fat increase the levels of cholesterol in your arteries. A number of studies show that people with diets higher in whole grains and produce, and lower in meat, have a lower risk of heart disease.
It lowers your risk for cancer
Diets higher in fruits and veggies help protect you against cancer. Diets high in red meat have also been shown to increase the risk of colon cancer. One study also showed that vegans have significantly lower rates of cancer than meat-eaters, even when controlling for non-dietary factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and family history of cancer. Just skipping the meat one day a week helps you form healthy habits that help you lower your cancer risk.
You’ll still get plenty of protein
The thought that veggies don’t contain protein is quite the myth. In fact, it’s extremely easy to get adequate protein from plant-based sources. Legumes (such as beans and lentils), nuts, tofu, and plant based protein powders (such as hemp pea, and rice protein,) are packed with protein and fiber, making them filling and healthy options to include in your vegetarian meals.
It helps you lose weight
On average, filling, nutrient-dense vegetarian meals are still lower in calories than meat-centered meals. Swapping out meat options for veggie options during the week helps you lower your calorie intake, up your nutrient and vitamin intake, and helps you slim down.
You’ll contribute to the health of the environment
Lowering your intake of meat makes a notable environmental impact. According to extensive research, if everyone went vegetarian for just one day, the U.S would save 100 billion gallons of water, and we would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide. According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped substituted vegetarian food for chicken for one meal a week, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.
You’ll save some cash
Pound for pound, produce is significantly cheaper than meat. Some research even suggests that vegetarians can save at least $750 each year in comparison to meat eaters. You may be slimming down swapping out the meat once in a while for veggies, but you’ll be padding your wallet!
You don’t have to cut meat out completely or all at once to make a healthy change. There are plenty of filling, healthy and delicious vegetarian meals that can easily satisfy you and your whole family. Of course we aren’t saying that eating meat is unhealthy, but reducing your intake and replacing it some with healthy veggies, fruits, and whole grains can have a wonderful impact on your health and the environment as a whole.
Wondering what to make for your next “Meatless Monday”? Check out some of the things you can make for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert:
Breakfast: Smoothie bowls. Blend your smoothies with nut butter and plant-based protein to make them thicker, and top them with your favorite fruit and granola. Here’s a recipe to try to get you started.
Lunch: Grain bowls. These easy-to-make bowls pack tons of nutrients and offer endless flavor combinations. Just top a grain, like quinoa, with roasted veggies, avocado, and a sauce of your choice.
Dinner: Veggie burgers. Buy or make your own patty, grill it, and top it with all of your favorite fresh and roasted veggies. Serve with some roasted sweet potatoes on the side.
Dessert: Brownie bites. Try these brownie bliss balls as a perfect healthy dessert, that can double as a snack or on-the-go breakfast.
Author: Maggie Harriman